Manifa project starts first phase of production

Updated 16 April 2013

Manifa project starts first phase of production

Saudi Aramco said the first phase production start-up at the Manifa field commenced recently, 3 months ahead of schedule and well under the program’s approved budget.
The Manifa field’s production capacity is expected to reach 500,000 bpd by July 2013, and is planned to reach its full design capacity of 900,000 bpd of Arabian Heavy crude oil by the end of 2014, while Saudi Aramco’s maximum sustained capacity will be maintained at the level preceding Manifa production.
Last October, Ali Al-Naimi, minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and Saudi Aramco’s chairman of the board of directors, led the board members on a review tour of the Manifa field production facilities and inaugurated reservoir water injection along the perimeter of the Manifa field.
The Manifa project is unique in many ways with its innovative engineering design to develop the field’s optimum production capacity, while caring for the environment and optimizing its budget.
The Manifa field includes dry-land rigs linked by a total of 41 kilometers of causeways with a number of elevated bridges designed to maintain natural water flow in the Manifa Bay and preserving natural marine nurseries.
Including a 420-MW heat and electricity plant, the project employed best in class technologies in infrastructure, drilling and production activities consuming more than 80 million man hours without a lost time injury, one of the best safety records in the industry, which qualified the project to receive the “Innovative Oil Project of the Year” award.
Speaking to Saudi Aramco’s leadership and employees, president and chief executive officer, Khalid A. Al-Falih, congratulated the Manifa Project team on their multiple successes by bringing Manifa on stream three months ahead of schedule in line with operational excellence, safety and environmental stewardship and reaching high level of Saudization in operations, mainly attributable to Saudi Aramco’s investments in human resources, operations and infrastructure developments.
“The Manifa story will be a very bright and shining example in our corporate history,” he said.
“It really opens a new page in terms of overcoming various hurdles and complexities most notably through human and technological innovation,” said the CEO.
It is a testimony to the company’s values, particularly citizenship, by caring for the environment, Saudization and relying on national vendors to the maximum extent.”
Al-Falih also praised training programs offered by the company to its employees on the latest techniques in the design, construction, and operation of mega and advanced oil projects.


Gold rush at Turkish bazaar a test of trust for lowly lira

Updated 15 August 2020

Gold rush at Turkish bazaar a test of trust for lowly lira

  • As precious metal prices soar, Turks rush to buy amid economic uncertainty and a volatile currency

ISTANBUL: Hasan Ayhan followed his wife’s instructions last week and took their savings to buy gold at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar as Turks scooped up bullion worth $7 billion in a just a fortnight.

With memories of a currency crisis which rocked Turkey’s economy only two years ago fresh in his mind, the retired police officer was among those playing it safe as he queued in the city’s sprawling market, where a screen showed the gold price rise by one Turkish lira ($0.1366) in just 10 minutes.

“I think it is the best investment right now so I converted my dollars to buy gold,” the 57-year-old said. “I might withdraw my lira and buy gold with it too, but I am scared to go to the bank right now because of coronavirus.”

The day after Ayhan bought his gold on Aug. 6, the lira hit a historic low and remains skittish, laying bare concerns that Turkey’s reserves have been badly depleted by market interventions, which are showing signs of fizzling out.

Turks traditionally use gold for savings and there may be 5,000 tons of it “under mattresses,” with more added after the recent buying spree, Mehmet Ali Yildirimturk, deputy head of an Istanbul gold shops association, said.

Although bullion has never been more expensive, vendors at the Grand Bazaar said almost no one was selling their gold jewelry. There are only buyers.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Currency touched record lows in three volatile weeks.
  • Local holdings of hard currencies at all-time high.
  • All are buyers at Grand Bazaar, despite expensive gold.

“I’ve been chatting with hundreds of people who are thinking about selling their cars or houses to invest in gold,” vendor Gunay Gunes said.

In the last three weeks, as selling gripped the lira, local holdings of hard assets such as dollars and gold jumped $15 billion to a record of nearly $220 billion.

There is no evidence suggesting people are about to pull savings from banks, and this week the lira has hovered around 7.3 versus the dollar, although it remains among the worst emerging-market performers this year.

Demand has eased since Turks withdrew some $2 billion in hard foreign cash from their banks during a March-May period in which a lockdown was imposed and the lira hit its last low. Analysts say that if Ankara cannot boost confidence in the currency, which has fallen almost 20 percent this year, import-heavy Turkey risks inflation and even a balance of payments crisis that will worsen fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Given foreign investors now have only a small stake in Turkish assets, they say the key for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is convincing Turks to stop turning to the perceived stability of dollars and gold.

The central bank and treasury did not immediately comment on the dollarization trend or any policy response.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, said on Wednesday the lira’s competitiveness was more important than exchange rate volatility.

The central bank has effectively borrowed on local dollar liquidity to fuel foreign exchange market interventions, which are meant to stabilize the lira.

Through Turkish state banks, which together are “short” foreign exchange by $12 billion, the central bank has sold over $110 billion since last year. In turn, the bank’s gross FX buffer has fallen by nearly half this year to below $47 billion, its lowest in years.

The central bank has said its reserves naturally fluctuate in stressful periods, and the treasury says the bank intervenes at times to stabilize the currency.

But ratings agencies say Ankara should take decisive steps, such as an interest rate hike, to rebuild reserves and restore confidence. Otherwise, rising current account deficits and possible debt defaults could tarnish a solid reputation for meeting foreign obligations.

“Locals don’t want to keep Turkish lira, they’ve been dollarizing and buying gold. Turks have hardly ever done that,” said Shamaila Khan, New York-based head of EM debt strategy at AllianceBernstein, which manages $600 billion. “That is why you need proactive policies because if you get to that stage where locals are unwilling to keep their money in the bank then you’re heading to a balance of payments crisis. That’s when the alarm bells will start ringing.” 

Some banks imposed fees on withdrawals this week, while the central bank has curbed cheap credit channels it opened to ease the coronavirus fallout. Yet while lira deposits now earn more than the 8.25 percent policy rate, their real return is negative with inflation at 11.8 percent.

Traders say such backdoor tightening needs to reach 11.25 percent to stabilize the lira, which has nearly halved in value since early 2018.

Market expectations have risen for a formal rate hike that economists say would reinforce central bank independence, even while it could slow economic recovery.

Politics may stand in the way.Erdogan, whose popularity has dipped this year, holds the view that high rates cause inflation, and sacked the last central bank governor for disobedience.

He said on Monday he hoped market rates would fall further.

But firms such as System Denim, which imports materials and makes clothes for companies like Zara and Diesel, are feeling the pinch from rising costs. Owner Seref Fayat said he converted his 4 percent euro-denominated loans to lira at 10 percent. “No need to take on additional FX risk,” he said. “I pay a higher rate, but at least I can see ahead.”